Taxicab Etiquette: Headphones? Yea or Nay?
September 19, 2008 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Etiquette Filter: Headphones in a taxi - kosher or totally rude?

The best way for me to get to my doctor's office is by cab. Everywhere else I go in town, I take public transportation. For this one destination, it just isn't an option. So, I take a cab. Even then, it's kind of a hike. (> 15 min.)

I really prefer to listen to music, but I don't quite know if it would be totally rude for me to be there zoning out. I'm somewhat new to urban life and can't quite figure out if a taxi is solely a transport device or if I should be using the same courtesy as other human-to-human service interactions.
posted by grapefruitmoon to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
(Oh yeah, I always tip, and tip fairly well. I've at least figured THAT out.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:08 AM on September 19, 2008


I'd say it's kind of rude, much like talking on your cell phone when paying for something at a register. Then again, I don't make chitchat with cab drivers, so I sit there quietly or read, which also might be rude.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:12 AM on September 19, 2008


You should greet the driver politely and provide any necessary information along the way, but you are not required to carry on extended converstions with anyone you are paying to do something for you. There's no need to pretend to be friends, you aren't friends- he or she is providing with you a service that you're paying for, and because you're paying, you can do whatever you want with the time. I don't even think it would be rude to actively discourage the taxi driver from engaging you in conversation (i.e. wearing headphones, although that may make it hard to hear him ask "So, wait, right or left?")
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:16 AM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


If it's really bothering you, why don't you ask the driver?
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2008


You are paying for the cab to get you where you want to go. Unless you do something distracting to your driver, it's on your dime -- do whatever you want.
posted by mmf at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2008


Not rude at all. I hardly ever talk to taxi drivers, and they hardly ever talk to me, except to give the destination and to pay. There's also often a language barrier. Plus, in my experience, at least 50% are using their cell phone while driving and not paying any attention to you.

I would say the exception is London. The taxi drivers I've had there have been quite interesting conversationalists.
posted by desjardins at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2008


I'm not sure what city you're in, but at least 7 out of 10 cab rides I take involve the driver talking incessantly on his cell-phone for the entire trip and barely acknowledging my existence. I don't think you'll be considered rude.
posted by Adam_S at 9:20 AM on September 19, 2008


Based on the number of cab drivers who hold phone conversations while they're taking me places, I'd say absolutely not. But do make sure that he knows you're wearing head phones so he can wave if he needs to clarify directions.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:21 AM on September 19, 2008


But do make sure that he knows you're wearing head phones so he can wave if he needs to clarify directions.

Oh, with my headphones it's impossible to NOT know I have them. In my mother's words "it looks like you have pancakes on your head."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:25 AM on September 19, 2008


I'm not sure what city you're in, but at least 7 out of 10 cab rides I take involve the driver talking incessantly on his cell-phone for the entire trip and barely acknowledging my existence. I don't think you'll be considered rude.

I'm in Boston, and I've certainly experienced the cell-phone chatters as well.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:25 AM on September 19, 2008


I'm somewhat new to urban life and can't quite figure out if a taxi is solely a transport device or if I should be using the same courtesy as other human-to-human service interactions.

What TPS said. Interacting with a cab driver is kind of like interacting with a waiter. By all means, you should be polite and civil but you are not obligated to turn this into a lifelong friendship. When you're talking with a waiter, you are polite, of course, but the conversation is pretty businesslike and functional. They greet you and give you a menu. You give them your order. Later, during the meal, they ask if everything's OK. Maybe offer dessert. Etc.

There is a little more leeway for chatting when you're a passenger in a cab. But that's the sort of thing that happens only if you want it to happen. If you want to zone out, listen to music, make cellphone calls, read or anything else, the driver should respect your decision and focus on driving.

So headphones in a cab are totally OK. You are not behaving rudely at all.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:00 AM on September 19, 2008


Headphones in a cab are totally okay after you say hi and give your destination.

Playing music really loud on your headphones is rude, of course, and will make the cabbie think that you won't be able to respond if he needs to get clarification, ask your preference for an alternate route due to an obstruction, and get you to pay up afterward.

So as long as you keep the volume down and seem aware of your surroundings, you're fine.
posted by desuetude at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2008


I was a cab driver for a few years. I quickly figured out that the passenger defined our social relationship. If they wanted to talk, we talked. If they wanted to zone out in silence, I turned up the radio.

I only had two rules.

1. pay the fare
2. don't sit directly behind me if you're the only passenger (this is the driver's blind spot and it's his right to be able to keep an eye on you)
posted by philip-random at 10:37 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a former cab driver of about 7 years, saying hello and telling them where you're going is fine. Most of my customers who were alone tended to talk on their cellphones, some did listen to their ipod. And of course some had some really nice conversations with me. Any of those are fine, but I'd put conversation (with me) first, then ipod and/or silence, then them talking on their phone, in order of preference. Looking at what philip-random says, I agree. The passenger did set the tone. And I did prefer them not to sit right behind me.
posted by samph at 11:00 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most of my cab rides are from LAX to the San Fernando Valley, generally during Rush hour.

I think I'd throw myself out of the car if I couldn't zone out with my IPOD. I give the driver the directions before I zone out and then direct him once we're off the freeway.

It's never once been a problem. In fact, I think most of them prefer it (especially with a potential back seat driver like myself)
posted by cjets at 11:00 AM on September 19, 2008


Another former cabbie, here to second everything samph said. Do whatever you want back there, just sit on the far side! I did prefer chatty passengers over silent ones, and either of those over cell phone talkers, but that's because I liked talking to people. Not every cabbie does, and in any case it's not rude - it's your dime.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 11:21 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just got in a similar discussion the other day with a co-worker who talks on her phone while getting a pedicure, which I find remarkably rude--someone's massaging your feet while you gab on your phone about how hung-over you are?--but she likened it to talking on the phone during cab rides. I agree with TPS wholeheartedly, but I know that my differentiation between pedicures and cab rides was kind of specious. I said the point of a pedicure is that you're supposed to sit back and enjoy the experience, not ignore a professional's hard work while you gossip on phone.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:14 PM on September 19, 2008


A taxi driver once told me (after I politely asked him if he could follow a specific route) that "hey, while you're in here, this is your car." That's it.

Personally, I don't usually talk to drivers, but if they talk to me, I'll talk back. I've heard some seriously funny/weird/sad/awkward stories that way, which in the end beats the ipod.
posted by neblina_matinal at 12:49 PM on September 19, 2008


not ignore a professional's hard work while you gossip on phone.

Bah. You are paying for their time and if you're not irritating other customers, it's your right. if it were a therapist, you'd have a point because the relationship necessitates talking to the professional. But I don't need to be intently focused on my pedicurist or my hair stylist or my cabbie. I am paying them for their time and services; they are my employee.
posted by desjardins at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2008


You don't find the idea of yakking on the phone while "your employee" bathes your feet a little... erm, colonial? Seems about one proffered grape twig away from getting carted off on Cleopatra's litter.

Anyways, talk away in the cab if you feel better after reading our anecdotal sanctions. Every time you're directly paying another person for a service that demands extended face-to-face time, you wade will into some murky territories of social etiquette. Even if the rest of us think it's a-okay to do it, don't take our advice if it still snags your trip-wire for rudeness.
posted by zoomorphic at 2:03 PM on September 19, 2008


I've got earbuds -- so I usually just leave one ear in and one ear out. That way, if the cabbie wants to have a chat, I can hear him and not be rude. But...he still gets the subtle and less rude suggestion that, perhaps, I'm a bit preoccupied. (Might not work for your giant phones though...)
posted by ebeeb at 4:23 PM on September 19, 2008


ebeeb: Yeah, I can do one ear on/one ear off, but it's a bit cumbersome. The giant phones are partly to *avoid* conversation (on the subway. I have one of those faces that just screams "WEIRDOS! TALK TO ME!" even if my mouth is not moving), so there's no real way to seem social if they're on.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:37 PM on September 19, 2008


If they wanted to zone out in silence, I turned up the radio.

That seems a bit perverse.
posted by zadcat at 9:13 PM on September 19, 2008


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